Published on 9 Jan 2013 Sections ,

Grayling plans rehabilitation reform for prisoners

New reforms could see prisoners serving sentences under 12 months forced to undertake a period of rehabilitation provided by private contractors under contracts that pay “by results”.

Justice Secretary Chris Grayling has unveiled plans for a “rehabilitation revolution” in which short custodial sentences will include a period of mandatory rehab for prisoners.

Under the new proposals mentors will meet offenders at the prison gates and private contractors will provide probation services under contracts that paid “by results”.

Inmates who are serving sentences under 12 months currently undertake rehab on a voluntary basis and are released into the community without supervision or support.

However Sarah Billiald, of the Probation Chiefs Association, told Channel 4 News that many of the 190,000 prisoners who would no longer automatically be supervised by the probation service, were still risky individuals including prolific burglars, child abuse cases, gang members:

“these are the sort of people who are being outsourced, and what probation feels is that you need the strong accountability of the probation service managing the end-to-end management of these cases – and the risk management – in order to maintain integrity.”

No wonder we have such high levels of reoffending. It is madness to carry on with the same old system and hope for a different result – Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary

The reforms have been triggered by high reoffending rates, almost half of all prison-leavers are re-convicted within 12 months and for those serving less than a year that figure rises to almost 58 per cent.

Prisoner rehabilitation - how will the new scheme work?

Mr Grayling has explained that people currently leave prison with £46 in their pocket and “no support at all”.

“No wonder we have such high levels of reoffending. It is madness to carry on with the same old system and hope for a different result.”

“We know across the public, private and voluntary sectors there is a wealth of expertise and experience – we need to unlock that so we can finally begin to bring down our stubbornly high reoffending rates.”

Has Chris Grayling unlocked the prisoner's dilemma? Read FactCheck's analysis

The public sector probation service will continue to deal with high risk offenders, including all serious sexual and violent offenders, under the new plans which will be set out in spring this year and rolled out across England and Wales in 2015.

‘Justice Data Lab’

The Government will be launching a nationwide ‘Justice Data Lab’ to help rehab organisations access reoffending data as well as providing £500,000 to voluntary and community sector groups to ensure they are ready to begin bidding for services.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “When it comes to cutting reoffending, Ministry of Justice figures show that community sentences are outperforming short jail sentences by almost 10 per cent”.

“Why not build on the success of joint work by probation, police and voluntary organisations, rather than break up the probation service and put the public at risk?”

“By reserving prison for serious and violent offenders instead of placing all bets on untried payment by results methods, the Justice Secretary could free up taxpayers’ money to fund his rehabilitation revolution.”

Shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan has said that payment by results in criminal justice is untested and claimed the Tory-led Government are taking a reckless gamble with public safety.

“Pilots were already under way to see if payment by results worked and to ensure any problems were ironed out before being rolled out.”

“The new Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, is demonstrating breathtaking arrogance in choosing to ignore the pilots.”

Mr Khan said that every Probation Trust in the country was rated either good or exceptional by the Government in 2011 and warned that Grayling’s proposals risked replacing them with private firms such as G4S.

However Justice Minister Jeremy Wright told Channel 4 News that a good deal of learning had already happened and the government was now keen to get on with reform.